With the eyes of NFL executives staring intently, Jarvis Landry sprinted down the designated 40-yard dash track at Lucas Oil Stadium, hoping to dispel concerns about his speed. For NFL hopefuls, the time on a stopwatch can be the difference between becoming a high-round draft choice and seeing a dream shattered.
Landry’s legs failed him. His official time was 4.77 — the slowest 40-yard dash among receivers at the combine. It was a devastating blow for Landry, who pulled his hamstring warming up for the event but insisted on running anyway — a costly decision that exemplifies his hunger to compete.
While many NFL front office honchos dropped Landry down their boards — a certainty considering he almost slipped out of the second round — Miami Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey told the Miami Herald he saw Landry’s poor time as an “opportunity.”
The Dolphins, looking to take advantage of that opportunity, traded back twice during last Friday night’s second round. As receivers with larger frames and faster timed speed were swooped up — specifically, Davante Adams, Cody Latimer and Allen Robinson between Miami’s original pick and its relocated pick — the Dolphins patiently waited to nab their target.
With pick No. 63 overall, the Dolphins took Landry after 11 receivers had already been selected. Many of those 11 are bigger and faster than Landry. But there’s something Landry brings to the table that can’t be quantified.
“I saw him play live several times and he always jumped out, just his ability to make plays and play with the toughness and passion that symbolizes what the Miami Dolphins are about,” Hickey told the club’s website after the pick.
Despite the qualities Hickey beamed about, Landry was seemingly forgotten in the shadow of teammate Odell Beckham Jr. during the evaluation season. Thanks to dynamic playmaking ability that was evident on film and confirmed on a stopwatch, Beckham was the third receiver selected in the first round.
Although his skill set justified a top 15 pick, Beckham wasn’t LSU’s most productive receiver in 2013. That distinction belonged to Landry, who caught 18 more passes and two more touchdowns than his first-round counterpart.
“When you put the tape on to watch Odell Beckham play, you can’t tell which one is Beckham,” Mike Mayock said during NFL Network’s telecast of the draft. “I like the opportunity he’s going to get in Miami.”
How, you might ask, does Landry get the job done despite his physical limitations? A combination of many attributes propel him, including savvy route running, the toughness to make difficult, contested catches over the middle, the body control to fluidly adjust to the football and perhaps most of all, a passion for the game.
“This football thing is in every bone, it’s in every muscle in me,” Landry told Verizon before the draft. “It’s just what drives me.”
Landry isn’t a product of overachieving exclusively, though. He has been blessed with one prototypical quality. Though smaller and “slower” than many, his large 10 1/4” hands made him one of the nation’s most dependable targets. With a mere two drops in 2013, Landry’s phenomenal 2.5 percent drop rate was much lower than any receiver drafted before him. By comparison to the NFL, only six qualifying receivers in the entire league managed a 2.5 percent or lower drop rate in 2013.
Sure hands, toughness, intelligence — it all helps Landry counter any deficiency of speed. And his speed arguably isn’t the concern some have made it out to be. On film, in pads, Landry plays much faster than he timed in shorts. And at his pro day in April, Landry ran in the 4.50-4.58 range on a healthy hamstring.
Besides, the 40-yard dash is arguably the most over-analyzed drill in football. “Landry plays a lot like Anquan Boldin,” NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah tweeted during the draft. “Love the way he goes after the ball.”
Boldin ran the 40 in 4.71 seconds coming out of college, but has still produced six 1,000-yard receiving campaigns in his illustrious career. I would venture to say that a poor 40 isn’t a major indictment — at least not for receivers of Boldin’s mold, who compensate with crisp routes and grittiness.
While Landry’s measurables raise questions about his ability to beat NFL cornerbacks, his film suggests the Dolphins may have gotten one of the biggest steals of the entire draft.
“I’m the hungriest receiver in the draft, period,” Landry recently told Yahoo Sports. “And hunger can’t be measured with a stopwatch.”
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